Sunday, April 24, 2016

Welcoming God

Since the beginning, mankind has been running from God. Though we are empty and deeply broken, we seek our own way. If we may be inclined to think of God, we do so on our own terms, as if He were to answer to us, or ought to. If it does not happen this way, we are quick to get angry, in our generation.

The wonderful truth is that God is actually pursuing us. He actively seeks us, for He loves us beyond measure. So much so, that He gave His very own Son. Christ suffered, died, and rose again to bridge the gap of enmity between God and mankind. What is even more wonderful is that this is not an impersonal act vaguely applied to us. It is for each of us individually. God values each one of us, where we are right now, in our circumstances. Are your trials too big or too bad for God to love you? This is far from the case. It can be the very thing that brings you to an end of yourself, to welcome a God who waits for you to receive His Son.

Scripture says that when someone repents (changes their mind, receives Christ) all the angels in Heaven rejoice. Because it is the most beautiful thing a person can experience, with ramifications now and for all eternity. A sure hope that is not fickle emotion, but utterly trustworthy because of the object it is in, God Himself.

Artwork: "Through the Trees", © Jeffrey M Green.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil has been debated and explored for thousands of years. Up until our modern time, it was a given for us that evil existed. What we are seeing in modern society now, especially in the West, is a denial or redefining of evil and morality. It is a major shift in thinking.

There is, however, one sense where we very much are absorbed with the issue of evil more than ever before. It seems strange that on the one hand we want to remove this truth, but on the other we have become almost obsessed with it. It really comes down to where our focus and motives are. In our day, evil is most always considered in terms of “the other”. We see evil in that other person, that other group, that other society, that other mindset or views. We get caught up in this, and as we do so, we assume in ourselves that we are among the few that are “good”. Today's extreme behavior of the tolerance movement is very much driven by this energy, yet, no one is really immune. It is, after all, a human heart matter. When battle lines are drawn against each other, we see it in all camps.

God does not have the limited or reduced view of good that we do. Ours is based on a sliding scale of our own human perception, with others as a comparison – such as, “at least I (or we) are not as bad as they”. Today we are quick to use the words “do not judge me”, championing personal freedom as an all-encompassing banner, yet are constantly preoccupied with “the other” and what they deserve.

The Bible says that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. This is the human condition universally. It is very hard for us to see evil in ourselves, however. It is uncomfortable to do, certainly.  We run away from this idea or strive to live up to a code or philosophy of some kind in order to somehow try to counteract it, feeling that, if the good somehow outweighs the bad, we will be OK. We have an idea that we are really not so bad, failing to understand what true good is. True good is in relation to the source of good, which is God. True good is not relative, it is pure. When we are truthful with ourselves and look within as we stand before a Holy God, we are confronted with the fact that denial or redefining moral reality only adds to our sad state.

Deep within, we know – though we push it away, distract ourselves, or deny with all our energy - that we do wrong, we are imperfect, we hurt others, disappoint our own selves, and fall so short of good. Thankfully, though the judge’s gavel has been brought down, the sentence does not have to be despair. We can find joy, release, and true freedom.

As we are confronted with our own evil - the Bible calls this sin -  we are invited to fall to our knees and receive the Christ who, in the purest unfathomable love, paid for it in full on the cross. He rose in victory over sin and death, bringing us true life. Great is the love God has for us, that though we are sinners, He gave His only Son.

When we receive Christ, we are washed clean. Where there was once enmity and separation from a Holy God, we find through Jesus, tender mercy and connection. Where there was hopelessness and darkness, we find rejoicing in the beautiful unmerited grace of God. God, who at the same time as being utterly and awesomely Holy, receives us with open arms in the gift of His Son.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. Altered colored pencils self portrait.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

When Depression is Our Companion

When we struggle with depression, isolation can make us feel hopeless. Most in our social circle may mean well, yet do not have the wish or ability to get close and connect on a deeper level. Though surrounded by people we can experience a profound aloneness.

There are valleys we walk that are so deep we wonder who will pause, listen to our pain, and understand? I am thankful that we can be open in our deepest sorrows with our loving Father. He will not turn away, dismiss us with light sentiments, or act awkward. In Christ, He knows us intimately. He knows us to our core. He demonstrated such love on the cross for us, with wonderful grace.

The darkness of depression can bring a numbing separation from anything positive. Hope then seems beyond the control of our immediate moment. We long for understanding yet withdraw into ourselves. Reading the Psalms as an example, we find that God welcomes His children pouring out our deepest pain to Him. There is none of this we need to hide. We are safe to bare all the despair within. We are free to be vulnerable with a Lord who tells us He will never leave us or forsake us, who reminds us how deeply He loves us. As there is no isolation more devastating than separation from God, if we have never accepted His Son we must receive this wonderful gift.

Sometimes our hearts are so weighed down we can not reach out and appreciate God's love in the emotional moment. Depression is like a sickness which may not pass with the best medicine. We can lay this turmoil before Him, knowing He walks us through our days with our hand clasped in His own. In the redemption of Christ, His hand holds strong over ours, where we can not wander, as it could be if the hands were reversed. His grace is not only over us when we can see it, this is just as true in the heart's dry branches, thorns, and thistles. Our wonderful God is good, all the time. His tender, gentle love enfolds with the healing light of pure acceptance in Christ.

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8

And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit...but have poured out my soul before the Lord. 1 Samuel 1:15. 

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Cloudy Dawn", pastels on pastel paper, 8 1/2" x 11".

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Surrounded On All Sides By Love

Are you disappointed with yourself today? Do you feel down? In Christ the barrier of enmity is wiped away, bringing us near to God. Being near, His relationship to us is that of surrounding us on all sides in love. Not convenient fuzzy love only when we do well, but a deep pure love that can never be removed, even  when we fall on our face or just can't seem to overcome.

Your yesterday does not define your tomorrow. His grace is new everyday, bringing beauty and restoration in the most broken lives. And we are really all broken aren't we?

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (that is us), so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Artwork: © Jeffrey M Green. "Wings", 3" x 4 1/4", colored pencils.